The 5-Star Hotel Star Rating System: Definition, Differences & History

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  • 0:03 The Hotel Star Rating System
  • 0:37 History
  • 1:30 The Five Stars
  • 4:10 Example
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

After this lesson, you'll know how the hotel star rating system started and what each star rating means. You'll understand exactly what people can expect at a hotel with a specific star rating.

The Hotel Star Rating System

When people travel for either business or pleasure, they will usually end up staying in a hotel of some sort. In the United States, hotels have various ratings, one of which is the 5-star hotel star rating system. This system aims to rate hotels based on the quality and amount of amenities it provides its customers. You've probably heard about famous 5-star hotels where famous people go to stay. People also go to these expensive, but luxurious hotels for special occasions and just to splurge sometimes and have a good time.


In the United States, the 5-star rating system was started by the least likely of companies - an oil and gas company! You see, Mobil, the same gas station company that you probably have seen while driving around, started making travel guides, and started using the 5-star system to rate different hotels. Eventually, others started to emulate the gas and oil giant, and the new system spread quickly.

But did you know, though, that this 5-star rating system isn't regulated by any one person or organization? That's right. In the United States, the 5-star hotel rating system is based on popular opinion. In other countries, though, such as Spain and Italy, ratings are controlled by the government with specific laws in place that define each star rating. So, in the United States, hotel ratings are much like movie ratings. It's a collective agreement as to the quality of the hotel.

The Five Stars

Different travel guides and tourism specialists will give ratings to hotels using different methods, including unannounced and announced inspections. Inspectors will often ask to look around the premises, and based on certain criteria, determine the rating of the hotel. More recently, however, companies have become reliant on actual customer reviews to develop the ratings.

There are certain things that travelers can expect from each star rating. For a hotel with a 1-star rating, travelers can expect a small- to medium-sized room which will have in it a telephone and a television. These are very basic hotels that provide travelers with a place to stay and not too much else. Room service is typically not included. These usually do not have an attached restaurant, and travelers will need to go out to find something to eat. Examples of this type of hotel include Motel 6 and some other independent inns and motels.

A hotel with a 2-star rating will be very similar to a 1-star hotel, though it will likely be closer to affordable restaurants. 2-star hotels typically don't have an attached restaurant, but they are close to affordable eating options. Some 2-star hotels do offer free breakfasts. Examples of 2-star hotels are Extended Stay America and Red Roof Inn. There are also some independent inns and motels that qualify for the 2-star rating as well.

For 3-star hotels, travelers can expect more space in their rooms, and the hotels themselves are usually located near major freeways. For 3 stars, travelers receive more amenities, such as room service and a fitness center. What's not included is a free breakfast, and travelers are expected to pay for food at nearby places or at the hotel's own restaurant. Examples of 3-star hotels include Courtyard by Marriott and Doubletree.

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